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Advancing the voice of Women in MedTech

Advancing the voice of women in medtech

A message from our Founder

Headshot Elena Kyria founder of elemed

Elena Kyria

CEO

Elemed

As a fully female recruitment company active in the medtech industry, our role in advancing the voice of gender equality couldn’t be more important.

Gender equality isn’t about shouting girl power and pretty pictures. It’s about promoting equality and raising awareness against traditional biases to help create a gender equal world.

At Elemed, we do this by:

    • Ensuring we present diverse & blind shortlists
    • Challenging our clients to think differently about role briefs and educating around unconscious bias
    • Promoting equal pay and educating employers through salary benchmarking and data
    • Evaluating candidates based the merits of their achievements
    • Cutting gendered language and promoting inclusive job descriptions
    • Empowering women to apply for stretch roles
    • Helping our clients build inclusive workplaces and teams
    • Sourcing from diverse talent pools and backgrounds
    • Creating powerful mentoring pairs through Elemed’s mentoring academy
    • Promoting those who proactively advance the voice of Women in our space.

Join us as we celebrate those individuals who #choosetochallenge gender stereotypes and proactively advance the voice of Women in Medtech.

-Elena Kyria

headshot Donielle Johnson

Donielle Johnson

Head of Global Regulatory Affairs 

Bausch Health

Donielle is the Global Head Regulatory Affairs-Medical Devices for Bausch Health. She leads the creation of a global medical device organization that supports strategic priorities domestic and internationally ensuring access to innovative technology and compliant maintenance of business.

Prior to Bausch Health, Donielle was the Sr. Director of Regulatory Affairs for EMEA & Canada Johnson & Johnson. In this role, she was responsible for leading a team of ~70 people to ensure compliant and on-time launches of new products, lifecycle management and business transformation, and policy-shaping to drive regulatory harmonization.

One of the ways I encourage gender equality in my workplace is by ensuring I give space to other female voices. The medical device field is traditionally male dominated, but there are awesome women doing amazing things to advance innovation. Using my magnetic personality, I try to encourage the collective to hear all voices and allow space in the room for women to bring their unique perspective to the challenges facing our team.

Head On! As a woman who has been mentored by amazing women, I offer my time and resources to other women who are interested in careers in medical device regulatory. I am an active participant in my company’s Women’s Inclusive Network. I ensure diversity within my candidate slate when I am interviewing for open positions. I encourage work/life balance for all, but I am especially cognizant that most women are caregivers, but they don’t allow time to take care of themselves.

I am my sister’s keeper and I am privileged to have a circle of amazing women in my life. We uplift, support, provide tough love, and celebrate one another in unique ways. For me, one of the most sincerest ways that I have shown up to celebrate achievements of women is just by showing up. Timing is such a precious gift and to give my time to support the opening of a new female business, celebrate a woman’s promotion or life-changing moment is the sincerest way that I can celebrate her.

The collective is greater than the individual. Gender equality is important because society is not a monolith and equality ensures access to the same opportunities and rights which makes us stronger as a society.

headshot Lea Atallah

Lea Atallah

Quality & Regulatory Affairs Manager

Zimmer Biomet

Lea Atallah has been working for Zimmer Biomet for over 7 years now and managed to receive more than 10 awards for going the extra mile and being customer-focused. Lea has experience in QMS, Product Registrations, Regulatory Affairs, Regulatory & Business Compliance in addition to having supported the general management in Legal Activities and Companies Integrations. In addition to her volunteering activities, Lea was recently appointed as the Mecomed RA Vice-Chair adding to her experience in being the Chairwoman and Education Provider in international organizations upon request eg. TOPRA. Lea is now excited to go to The Imperial College after being accepted into The Executive Health Innovation Management Program.

I don’t believe much in gender equality, rather in women’s empowerment, hence encouraging this process at my workplace through:

    • Following up with the women I know, to make sure there is zero-tolerance towards all forms of violence including verbal and/or physical abuse (taking note that there is an existing policy supporting this topic, already).
    • Engaging and lifting up top-performing women (offering them promotion, according to practices and opportunities) given that they are subject to less exposure.

‘Making sure there is equal remuneration or gender-sensitive recruitment at the workplace’ is cliché, yet important to mention recurrently, especially in the Middle East. I also spread the message politely over social media through posts, short notes, and over group meetings.

As a hobby, I am a writer. I once wrote that we should not wait for parents or men or a company or a day to celebrate women’s achievements. Women work hard, very hard, for their education and their career, before chasing anything else. They focus on their goals, when people think that their hearts are broken. Women do not waste time, even when taking their responsibilities to heart. Even if women are soft, they are also hard at the same time. They deserve leadership roles, while they do not compare themselves to one another, nor to men. Women don’t let anything interrupt their dreams. They make a difference, a positive one to the community. They support their husband, they raise their kids, they ride bikes, they make it to the highest mountains, they run, they give birth, they even abort, and again, they stand up on their feet, to celebrate their everyday success. Isn’t it enough to just clap for every woman?

As mentioned above, I don’t believe much in gender equality, rather in women’s empowerment. I don’t tend to mention ‘men’ and this is not against men, but more to ask women to stand up for themselves and for what they deserve, especially at work. To all the ladies out there: our minds are our greatest assets, our hearts ignite our passion for sharing love and positivity with the world, our beauty is a bonus. Remember, there are already women leading as Heads of State and Government in only 20 countries worldwide, and the UN is supporting us to achieve an equal future. Then what could stop us?

headshot elly gisels

Elly​ Gysels

Head of Regulatory Affairs

Sensile Medical

Elly has been working in medical devices regulatory affairs for five years and currently heads the regulatory affairs team at Sensile Medical, a Gerresheimer company. Prior to that she worked more than 4 years in medical scientific communication, for both the medtech and pharma industry, and more than 5 years in clinical support and sales in cardiac electrophysiology.

She has 15 years’ experience in the medical device industry in multiple therapeutic areas. She is a multilingual scientific professional with an engineering physics degree (Ghent University, Belgium) and a PhD in signal processing for Brain-Computer Interfaces (EPFL, Switzerland).

Especially in the male dominated MedTech environment greater gender equality in the workplace should be encouraged and this can be done by:

    • Having great female role models who are an inspiration for many others.
    • Connecting with each other.
    • Supporting and encouraging each other, providing each other ideas and feedback. Equally, seeking open and honest feedback from male colleagues can be very helpful.
    • Offering mentoring.
    • Delivering excellent work.
    • Not considering gender as an inclusion or exclusion criterium when hiring and when defining project teams.
    • Offering flexibility in terms of working hours (to both female and male colleagues of course).
    • Allowing space for humor

In Switzerland, every year a “national future day” is organized. That day, girls and boys of the fifth class primary school can join a parent or acquaintance to work and learn about their company and their work. These girls and boys are especially encouraged to join an adult of the other gender to get insights into jobs that may be predominantly done by the other gender. Also, women in medtech can be an example to young girls out there; we can all talk to young girls and boys, the future generation in medtech, about what we do, what we like about it and spark their interest. When it comes to the medtech world, I think STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs for young girls and boys could contribute as well.

I do so by making women’s achievements visible and by giving compliments.

I believe men and women wonderfully complement each other. Women’s skills, ideas and observations are as valuable as men’s. Together we can achieve more than we could separately. Gender diversity will be addressed when it is not a topic of discussion anymore, when we do not have to think about and discuss it.

headshot Akivia Rivera

Akivia Rivera

Director Quality Assurance

Philips

Akivia is a chemical engineer with a MBA, born in Ensenada, Mexico. She started her career in the medical device industry in Tijuana (one of the biggest MedTech clusters) working in quality and project management. After a few years, she got a job in New Zealand where she worked in quality assurance in the development of respiratory care devices.

She held multiple positions while in there with the last one being Head of design assurance. She then decided to look for her next challenge and moved to the Netherlands as Director of Quality Assurance for the business mother and childcare in Philips.

I make sure my voice is heard and respected. During conversations, I point out inadequate comments related to unconscious bias minimizing women’s place at work.

In any hiring process I get involved, we always try to get women to even things out at work and therefore prepare more women to take on leadership roles in the future.

By recognizing their work and contribution in public, ensuring that differences in approach are also celebrated and talking about focusing on the outcome no matter that the approach is not the traditionally male approach.

Because women are about half of the population and the humanity is missing out on so much by leaving us out of decisions. Gender equality brings more innovation to the workplace.

headshot Ondina​ Bennaïm

Ondina​ Bennaïm

Global RAQA Director

Intuitive Surgical

Ondina Bennaïm is a creative problem-solver turned into a global Regulatory Affairs solution-seeker’ professional with over 12 years of experience in the healthcare industry, specifically medical devices. Having worked for small, medium and large organizations in various roles of increasing responsibility in RA and QA, what matters most to her is the belief that someone, somewhere is in better health due to the life-changing technologies she’s helped approving across the globe over the years. She is driven by the opportunity to make an impact for patients worldwide and gets her energy from the talented and smart people she gets to work with everyday. She is a strong believer in selfless-leadership and the word that best describes her is : doer.

I don’t have a TO DO list for gender equality in the workplace. As a people leader, I strive to be self-aware of my own biases and ensure they are not interfering with how I give assignments to my team members. Promoting a performance – based culture and giving everyone in the team an opportunity to deliver results is what I do to foster a work environment where everyone feels they have a chance to make a difference and thrive, irrespective of gender. The other thing I do is speak out and do not close my eyes or cover my ears when I am exposed to gender biases, even if these are made in casual conversations. I think it is important to call-out unconscious biases and call for self-awareness in fostering a culture of diversity. Equality in the workplace is made by the people that embrace it and actively act on it.

It all starts with recruitment – having a diverse slate of candidates, will most certainly yield a diverse pool of talent to choose from and select the best candidate for the role – irrespective of gender.

I celebrate all achievements, I believe communicating and sharing achievements outside of my team, with a larger, sometimes, more hierarchically-senior audience, is empowering and especially for women, helps in strengthening their confidence.

Gender equality is important because we all have our own unique strengths, that can bring important perspectives and new angles to the problems of the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world we live in. I think that by encouraging and praising our differences and uniqueness, we can come up with better solutions to address “what’s out there”, in the unknown.

headshot Amarjit​ Kaur Gill

Amarjit​ Kaur Gill

Global VP Quality Assurance & Regulatory Affairs

GN Hearing

With a career spanning over 25 years, Amarjit’s career started after completing an Engineering and Management degree. Enjoying the TQM and process improvement modules within the degree and final dissertation it led her into her first quality assurance role with a small distributor organisation in the UK.

Having taken further education after her degree, specialising in software engineering, she focussed on this in her early career. She progressed from a specialist role into management and eventually more senior management with global responsibility. Completing an Executive MBA whilst working full-time with a young family provided her with additional tools to make this transition.

Amarjit has worked for a few Nordic Medical device companies. In her role as Global VP Quality Assurance for Elekta, she had the opportunity to harmonise the QMS across sites globally and develop a strong team to ensure compliance and quality assurance.

More recently Amarjit is working in Denmark for a leading Hearing-aid company. In her current role she is leading the Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs function for GN Hearing.

I am fortunate to be working for a company that has a female CEO. In addition as part of the company’s vision for greater gender equality in the workplace, as well as in management positions, a target has been set to increase the number of female employees in key positions across the organisation. I personally believe in employing the best person for the role and developing them to be their best. However I also believe that having mixed gender teams at all levels in the organisation creates higher performing teams, as woman and men naturally differ in their approach to solving problems, conflict and resolution.

It is important to always realise that each person in your team is an individual. Therefore, to treat their development and the support they may require individually, which also includes taking into account differences in gender and culture. I have been fortunate to be in a position to manage teams across the globe where I have always adapted my leadership style to suit the individual wherever they may work in the world.

Working in the MedTech industry many of the functions such as Operations and Research & Development are predominately a male environment therefore it is key that other supporting functions balance out the gender equality. Working in a support function myself, I have always ensured that there is a gender balance at all levels of my organisation, ensuring the recruitment process is not eliminating females from the process, flexibility is provided where possible so that the role is attractive to everyone.

As previously stated I believe in managing team members as individuals, therefore, providing them the support network that suits their needs. As a working mother I know and understand the many challenges we face when working full-time and supporting our family, so providing flexibility in the workplace is important especially if you want to encourage woman to accelerate in their careers. This flexibility is also important to both genders as men are taking a more active parental role in today’s society.Through my own career and experiences, I have seen that woman are more critical about their own abilities and not always have the confidence to take the next leap. I have had the opportunity of promoting many woman into leadership positions even if they have not always felt ready to make the jump. It is important in these situations that the right support is put in place, such as training, mentoring and one on one support to give them a safe space to be open so they can share any difficulties that they are facing. I have found that providing mentees with mentors who are opposite in personality and gender can really improve their confidence as they learn to understand issues from a completely different perspective. I also have taken this opposite approach with male mentees and have them paired with female mentors, this way you can start to change the mindset and culture within the organisation.

It is important to celebrate everyone’s achievements and not over compensate one for the other. It is crucial that all are treated equally with opportunity, salary and reward. I personally ensure that my teams are treated fairly regardless of their gender or race. I have personally provided the opportunity to a number of females in my previous organisation to be featured in professional trade magazines. This has provided them the opportunity to share their achievements and careers to help promote themselves to a wider audience, as women have been overlooked in the past.

I am a mother of two boys where my husband and I try to lead by example on how to raise a family where both parents have equal opportunities to succeed in their careers, working to their strengths and working as a team. Taking this same approach into the workplace we need to continue to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to be their best and can achieve to the highest of their ability and not be hindered by their gender or race. I believe this to be extremely important and I certainly play my part in changing the culture in my place of work.

Headshot Juliette​ Cook

Juliette​ Cook

Director of Regulatory Affairs – EMEA

Cochlear

Juliette is Cochlear’s Director of Regulatory Affairs for the EMEA Region, managing a team of professionals across the region. Previously, as a company Board Member and Director of Quality and Regulatory Affairs at

Rayner Intraocular Lenses, she was responsible for global regulatory, quality and the company’s clinical programme.

She has had diverse management roles in research and development, quality management systems, medical device management and leading regulatory affairs teams around the world. She has worked overseas in developing countries Vanuatu and Mozambique, and for multinational company Zimmer Biomet in Switzerland, to tiny start-up companies in the UK.

She is an active Chartered Mechanical Engineer, enthusiastically promoting science, technology and engineering. She is a member of the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society and has been active in MedTech Europe and ABHI.

Achieving gender equality is one important element of Cochlear’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy. We are striving for gender balance of 40:40:20, which means that 40‐60 per cent of either gender is represented (40% women, 40% men, 20% open).

We have focused activities in the areas of Talent Succession and Talent Acquisition, with the aim of increasing our pipeline of female talent. A range of additional activities and policies recognised as key enablers to gender equality continue to be implemented to support improved access to work for all employees. These include a focus on continuing to embed flexible working for employees globally, further deployment of our Inclusive Leadership programs with a focus on unconscious bias education for all leaders, and continuing work to ensure gender pay equity across our global workforce.

This month at Cochlear we have an exciting programme of events around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Quite simply, it is about giving my team and all Cochlear’s employees the opportunities to fulfil their potential and do the best possible job they can.

headshot Dr Anka​ Letic

Dr Anka​ Letic

Professor

Atlas

Experienced more than 20 years as SME and CRA and medical writer in pharma and biotechnology. Dr Anka Letic is Head and Neck pathologist, oral surgeon, with strong clinical and research interest in general pathology, systemic diseases (Pain management, Diabetes, Neurology, Oncology, Immunology, Dermatology, Skin). Patients oriented clinical treatments. Experience in branch of medicine that uses an interdisciplinary approach to improve the quality of life of those living with chronic pain and allergy.

Expert invited by EU Commission, REA and EUREKA to review and evaluate biotechnology applied projects. Focused and active in preparing dossier for medical device certification by MDR. Particular expertise for medical device clinical investigation and regulatory compliance preparation. Based in Rome, Italy, collaborate with international academic and manufacturing organizations in UK, Japan, China, Serbia.

In the workplace we focus on reaching out and hiring the right talent, by giving equal career opportunities to women, and promoting talent and merit by focusing on eliminating gender-bias from all processes and procedures.

Diversity and inclusion are important values in the workplace for any company, especially those whose business depends on constant research and development. The more diverse the workforce, at all levels of seniority, the greater will be the level of innovation and the easier it will be to achieve strategic goals.

By giving appropriate visibility to talented women, and most of all by giving the opportunity – all year long, not just on one day – to women to show their leadership and take on leadership roles.

Aside from the obvious fact that equality is an important and non-negotiable value, without gender equality you’re essentially actively excluding roughly half of the population – or of your workforce – from expressing their maximum potential. Simply put, this is a very bad business plan.

Headshot Ian burgess

Ian​ Burgess

CEO

Medical Technology Association of Australia

Ian is CEO of the Medical Technology Association of Australia, the national association representing companies in the medical device industry.

Ian is a director of the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association, which is headquartered in Singapore, and is also a director and Vice Chair of Red Nose, formerly known as SIDS & Kids, a well-respected not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to saving the lives of babies and children.

The Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) set up the Women in Medtech Initiative (WiMT) in 2015 to lead the debate and promote the benefits of Gender Diversity in the workplace and within the MedTech industry. The MTAA Board of Directors established a Women in MedTech Committee to support the mission of the organisation, industry, and wider community.

MTAA is constantly developing and sharing information and tools for example a Whitepaper was developed to share current policies, actions and learnings for use as a practical resource by member companies to promote gender equality. We have also established a WiMT Mentoring Program.

The WiMT mission aims to proactively support gender diversity within the MedTech industry, effectively supporting women to unlock their full potential.

MTAA is currently undertaking an extensive joint research project with an Australian university with the following objectives:

    1. To understand the barriers and enablers of gender equality in MedTech.
    2. To understand the practices that support gender equality in MedTech.
    3. To provide sector-specific guidance regarding the practices and strategies that support gender equality in MedTech organisations irrespective of size.

This is leading the discussion towards setting an agreed and achievable target ratio of women in leadership positions by the end of 2022.

We celebrate women’s achievements by raising the profile and benefit of female leaders within the Medtech industry through targeted campaigns, events and annual awards.

The annual Australian Women in MedTech Awards are presented to an individual and a company who has been a leader in advancing the WiMT Mission or Goals within their company or the industry.

We hold various events and seminars that provide the opportunity for female leaders in MedTech and the broader community to share their experiences, insights, advice and inspiration. Since the onset of COVID-19, these have been in the form of webinars.

Our celebration if this year’s International Women’s Day included a highly engaging webinar with two amazing women who are medical practitioners and have had pioneering leaderships roles in their respective professions and also in Australia’s armed forces.

Webinars have been held on various topics including promoting diversity, freedom, challenges, building resilience, inclusion and self-determination, with audiences in Australia, New Zealand and APAC.

Gender equality is intrinsically linked to the sustainable development of a diverse workforce and ensures the attraction and retention of the best people; and improved organisational performance overall.

It is vital to human rights and the overall objective of gender equality for MTAA and WiMT, is the ability for women and men to enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all spheres of their work and life balance.

Heashot Sophie​ Vaillot

Sophie​ Vaillot

Life Science regulatory affairs director

Philip Morris International

After obtaining a PhD in pharmacy as well as a regulatory affairs degree, Sophie joined the French health competent authority in 2000 at the early stages of medical device regulation implantation.

Representing the French Health authority at the European Commission level, she actively worked with other European and international regulators and competent authorities to draft guidelines and share best practices, aiming at ensuring harmonization and consistent implementation of medical devices regulations. Sophie then joined the medical device industry, as part of GE Healthcare (GEHC) where she held the position of regulatory affairs director and implemented a global Center of Excellence for postmarket activities. During this time, she was also chairing several working groups from French and European Industry organization, being involved in the commenting and shaping of the new European medical device regulation.

In 2018, Sophie joined Nobel Biocare Systems as head of regulatory affairs, driving process improvement and harmonization within different operating companies. Strategically supporting the global and regional business teams with the introduction of new products, focusing on regulatory strategy and regulatory intelligence as a way to increase efficiency & market access. More recently, at the end of 2020, Sophie started to work for PMI as regulatory affairs director for Life Sciences, leading regulatory strategy and regulatory operational activities

As strange as it may seem – since I am a woman in addition to being a manager – my first action is to try and identify my own biases, whether conscious or unconscious. This effort is to ensure that I am aware of my biases and take them into account, especially during the recruitment and interview phase, so that the process is fair.  Of course, I also believe that promoting equality doesn’t stop when the recruitment process is over, but instead requires day-to-day actions. For example, mentors play a key role in boosting the confidence of new employees and helping them achieve their full potential. It is worth noting that these mentors shouldn’t be only women, as promoting gender equality is everyone’s responsibility.

Of course, flexibility plays an important part in this. As a manager I keep in mind that it should apply to both women and men. For example, providing more work flexibility to men allows them to take on more domestic commitments, thereby indirectly supporting women, and can over time dispel the expectation that childcare or domestic responsibilities fall solely on women.

As a manager I believe in leading by example, promoting gender equality through visible actions. This starts with a balanced representation of genders within my teams and direct reports. My management style also comes into play to address gender diversity through less visible or direct actions. For example, I know that I should recognize my own achievements without downplaying them. This is to counter a behavior pattern typical of professional women in which they often downplay their success, attributing it to external factors (such as “luck” or “help from others”) while men are more likely to attribute their success to innate qualities and skills.In addition, it is crucial for a manager to publicly acknowledge women’s accomplishments and make sure they get the credit and visibility they deserve, thereby creating a virtuous circle in which they are also at ease in acknowledging their own achievements.

It is not easy to answer this question without falling into clichés or platitudes. And I benefit from an education, family background, and environment that make the answer seem obvious. However, the mere fact that this question still needs to be asked is a testimony of its importance.In a few words, gender equality is not only a benefit to the individual but also – at a higher level – in society as a whole. Education, health, economics, culture and other facets of society are made stronger by a more inclusive society. Ultimately this benefits everyone of either gender.Promoting gender equality starts at home by identifying and fighting gender stereotypes, including with our own children! This will lead to a better awareness of the importance and benefit of gender equality. This promotion doesn’t need to stop at gender, as the value of other areas of diversity can also be taught.

headshot Philippe Bastide

Philippe​ Bastide

CEO and Co-Founder

Dianosic

Philippe is a seasoned leader bringing 20 years of experience in the MedTech and Pharmaceutical industry.He started in career at Pfizer France, where he developed skills in Market Research, Market Access and Pricing. Philippe then joined Johnson&Johnson where he was in charge of Market Access for Ethicon Biosurgery for the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region. Philippe joined Acclarent (J&J) and was in charge of setting up the business in France & Benelux. During his tenure, he developed skillsets regarding commercial development of new therapies. His scope of responsibilities extended to cover all precommercial markets in EMEA and lead the Professional Education team. Philippe then joined the New Ventures group at Livanova, where he supported disruptive internal projects and incubated startups. More recently, Philippe co-founded dianosic, a startup developing innovative solutions in the field of Ear, Nose and Throat, with a particular focus on epistaxis and chronic sinusitis, two areas with significant unmet medical needs.

Overall, I feel like companies are on the right track when it comes to gender equality. However, although significant progress has been made, things are happening way too slowly. Disparities in salary persist and a 15 to 20% difference between male and female for the same role is not rare. Old habits die hard. I am a strong believer in salary parity between men and women. Likewise, I am advocating that more women should occupy leadership roles.

A critical battle that remains to win is everyday sexism at work. Beyond that, intersectionality can be an aggravating factor of discrimination in hiring and must be fought relentlessly.

I genuinely believe positive discrimination is necessary for women to catch-up in the workplace. Therefore, all other things being equal, if I have the choice between a woman and a man for a particular role, I’ll be biased towards hiring a female. What is true for employees is also true for strategic and scientific Boards members. Boards are largely dominated by males and companies shall aim for a better balance, which is obviously not always easy to reach. As the patriarchal model is still very vivid in many countries, we will continue to “suffer” from a lack of gender diversity in some professions. In our case (ENT surgery), males represent 2/3 of the population of ENT surgeons, which makes it mechanically more challenging to find females. Despite that, our startup managed to move from 0% of female in our Scientific Board to 25%, and we shall continue to improve that.

As I believe in equality, I do not think women’s achievements should be celebrated in a specific manner. We give thanks to all are employees in the same way, regardless of their gender. One point of caution though is to avoid any unintentional bias for celebrating more men’s achievements.

Overall, it is important to create the conditions for women success at work and give them the opportunity to lead and deliver.

Promoting gender equality is a must in order to create an inclusive environment and have high performing, empowered teams. Equality must be considered as a guiding principle in the company’s roadmap.

Moreover, although gender equality in the workplace is key, diversity in general is of paramount importance. Therefore, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other personal characteristics should be addressed with great caution and shouldn’t lead to any sort of discrimination, especially during the hiring process.

headshot lisa casavant and maria fagan

Maria​ Fagan & Lisa Casavant

President & Executive Vice President

RQM+

Having cofounded R&Q in 2008, which was rebranded to RQM+ in 2020, Maria has an expert understanding of the consulting industry as well as the medical device industry. Maria has nearly 30 years of industry experience in medical device development across RA/QA areas, as well as post-surveillance and compliance.

Lisa cofounded R&Q in 2008, which was rebranded to RQM+ in 2020. As a member of the executive leadership team, Lisa supports strategic planning and execution, and provides guidance across the company. Lisa leads the RQM+ Marketing Team, focusing on creating and executing innovative marketing strategies to profitably increase revenue and grow the brand.

We find incredible talent and leadership skills across genders, and are always seeking to hire equitably. I’m proud to say that we have more woman in leadership roles than I have encountered at other companies. I think the difference at RQM+ is our focus on employee satisfaction, which is one of the five objectives of our balanced scorecard that we weight equally in the measurement of overall business success and risk. There are many components to employee satisfaction, a big one being work-life balance. We see work-life balance as the ability to feel successful at both work and home. For working parents especially, this can feel difficult to achieve in corporate environments with inflexibility in hours, requirements to be in the office, and pressure to live for the job. At RQM+ we have always strived to provide flexibility and remove those barriers that prevent anyone from feeling like they cannot have it all. I think this results in women being able to rise into leadership roles that they felt they could not take at other companies without compromising success at home.

It starts with hiring. Our recruiting and interviewing process has an intense focus on cultural fit, and for us that culture is an inclusive and supportive environment for all employees, clients, and everyone we interact with. We foster a culture of supporting one another, and often hear from our employees that their work colleagues are their close friends or feel like family. This supportive culture combined with a flexible work environment enables an employee of any gender and stage in life to achieve their best. Our leadership consciously ensures that our employees reap the benefits of working in a diverse company that celebrates all diversity.

Lisa: In our company, we celebrate everyone’s achievements. I am very proud that the women I work with feel empowered and I am so grateful to get to work with these amazing and talented women every day. For that, I am always celebrating.

Maria: I agree with Lisa’s comments above, my only addition is that women don’t need a celebration of achievements, they simply need to be given balance and work they love so that they can achieve to their full potential.

Lisa: Gender equality is important because there are great strengths and potential in every individual. Providing an inclusive work environment allows all of our employees to achieve success in every aspect of life. For example, what if a woman has the ability to cure cancer but cannot balance her demanding job with having a successful working partner and young children, and she therefore quits working? We never want any employee to have to sacrifice family for their career.

And from a personal standpoint, I am raising a son and a daughter and want to ensure they are learning. Recently, my 15-year-old daughter was working on a school project focused on gender equality. In our discussions, I came to learn that she was unaware of the extent of gender equality issues. She had heard about them at school and on the news, but had never encountered them. Because of the way she was raised – with a mom who owns a business and a dad who fully supports her mom and typically does a lot of the household work that is deemed by many societies as “mom’s job” – she just assumed that most families looked like ours and most companies operated like my company. I am so happy to know that she is confident and strong and has not experienced oppression in any way, and that my son also embraces diversity and would never think that he is superior based upon his gender. On the other hand, her project made me realize that we need to have more frequent discussions on this topic. I want to ensure that my kids are more than just inclusive….I want them to be change agents.

Maria: Gender equality, and more specifically, equality of people in general is critical for the world’s success. At RQM+, we speak frequently of our culture and that the “Whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. Everyone performing in a role they feel empowered and energized to perform, creates a portion of the whole….in total it is an amazing power that has propelled RQM+ to the success we have achieved. As with Lisa’s comments above, my kids (Ali 25, Ian 22, and Ethan 19), have no concept of inequality of women. My husband was a stay-at-home Dad for many years as we grew the business; he did this so that we, as a family, could have family balance. I will forever be grateful for his dedication to our family; it is hard being the only stay-at-home Dad at preschool and also hard to be the only woman in an all-male board room. RQM+ recognizes differences amongst people, celebrates the differences, values each individual, and binds them together into one powerful team…”the Whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ at its best.

headshot Holly Sheffield

Holly​ Sheffield

President

Cooper Surgical

Ms. Sheffield has served as President of CooperSurgical, Inc., our women’s healthcare business, since July 2020. Previously, she served as Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer from June 2018 to July 2020. Prior to joining Cooper, Ms. Sheffield had over 20 years of experience in investment banking. She joined Cooper from UBS Securities LLC, where she was a Managing Director, Global Head of Medical Technology from 2009 to May 2018. From 2000 to 2009, Ms. Sheffield was at Credit Suisse and from 1997-2000, Ms. Sheffield was at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette until it was acquired by Credit Suisse. Ms. Sheffield received a B.S. from Cornell University and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.

Progress begins with awareness, so it’s important to me that we offer a suite of training materials, toolkits and webinars for employees at all levels around the world. I’m also a big fan of ERGs. I was a leader in the Women’s ERGS at both of my previous employers and brought that enthusiasm to my current role as co-executive sponsor of our newly formed Women’s Impact Network “WIN”. It’s incredible to see women from around the world in difference businesses and functions come together, raise their voices and begin a shared dialogue.

Compensation and benefits can be tools to promote (or destroy) equality. I’m actively involved in compensation reviews and unconscious bias analytics to make sure all individuals are treated fair and equitable. We offer comprehensive fertility benefits to our employees including egg freezing which is important to our company as a leader in the fertility space and to me personally as a female professional who deeply understands the difficult trade-offs between family and career that many women face.

I hold myself and my leaders accountable for increasing representation. We measure, discuss as a team and brainstorm ways to improve. Our focus on talent acquisition lead to requirements for diverse candidate slates and interviewers for all roles at the Director level and above. We’ve also increased our level of transparency on promotion and new position opportunities. It’s working. More than 50 percent of hires, transfers, and promotions were women or people of color.

Another way we are supporting gender diversity is through start up partnering. Many of the innovators in women’s healthcare are, not surprisingly, women. And yet, these business leaders don’t always get the attention or the financing they deserve. For our part, at CooperSurgical, we can seek out the scientists and entrepreneurs who have something powerful to contribute. It might be a new medical device, or fertility treatment, or software tool. At a minimum, we help their ideas get more visibility in the marketplace. We’ve made multiple investments and I know that we will do more!

As a global industry leader, we have a powerful platform to spread the word about the accomplishments of our employees, our peers, and people we respect. Just in the past month, we’ve been able to highlight the contributions of female colleagues in Singapore, Japan. One was recognized as a top sales leader. Another was honored for her inclusive leadership style. Another was named to a prestigious role within an industry group.

When we call out these achievements, through social media, for example, it’s wonderful to see the response from peers. I say that because it’s less about amplifying the news and more about witnessing the respect that comes back – from men and women.

Same goes for when we highlight the work of third parties. Recently, our African Descent Employee Resource Group hosted a webinar about healthcare and racial disparities in America. The webinar featured Dr. Soyini Hawkins, a female gynecologic surgeon (who is also African-American), who specializes in the higher risk of uterine fibroids among African-American women. The live event was attended by about 500 employees, with more tuning in for the on-demand replay. We also made the webinar available to the public and spread the word through social media. Doing so, we reached thousands more people with the valuable insights.

Best of all, this event was conceived and produced by employees. They felt empowered to shine a light on women’s healthcare issues, and help increase cultural awareness at Cooper and beyond.

Most of my career was in the investment banking industry, where, historically, women have been in the minority and women in leadership a novelty. Over the years, the ratios of women on staff and in leadership positions has improved; but it has been slow going. Like all women, I’ve been keenly aware of it throughout my professional life. So at this stage of the game, I’m very mindful about ways I can have an impact.

I think my sense of duty is amplified by the role I have now. Not just because I’m in a leadership position, but also because I work in the field of women’s health. Professional advancement and women’s health are inextricably linked. In the U.S. half of the workforce is female. If they don’t have access to and advocates for comprehensive healthcare, they will continuously be at disadvantage. And gender equality will always be out of reach.

The benefits of gender equality touch every corner of our society, country and company. We have a lot to do but the proof points are in! Let’s get to work

Headshot Elizabeth Gfoeller

Elizabeth Gfoeller

Corporate Director, Regulatory Affairs

MED-EL

Elizabeth Gfoeller is the Corporate Director of Regulatory Affairs of MED-EL, an EU medical device manufacturer headquartered in Innsbruck, Austria. MED-EL is the global innovation leader in hearing loss solutions. To date, MED-EL’s implantable and non-implantable systems marketed in over 123 markets have restored hearing to more than 200,000 individuals worldwide.

Joining MED-EL in 2006, she currently leads the Corporate Regulatory Affairs function responsible for product licensing, registrations, re-certifications, post-market vigilance activities, regulatory strategies for new product developments and related compliance activities internally within MED-EL and externally to new and changed regulations and standards. She acts as the responsible person for communication with regulatory agencies and engages in lobbying activities.

Previously Elizabeth worked in the mobile telecommunications sector in regulatory compliance and data protection in Vodafone Ireland. Her educational background is in social sciences, with her graduate and post graduate studies in Sociology completed at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa where she was active for many years both as a university lecturer and social researcher in the non-government sector researching into diverse issues such as gender violence, adult literacy, trade unions and demilitarisation.

Personally, I try to bring my full authentic self to work and also to understand what this means for me and others. As a trained Sociologist and someone who spent some years teaching university students that gender roles are social constructs I am very aware of the fact that we are not living in a gender equal world. There is of course a great deal of difference across the world but there is still so much work to be done in every field. For example within the Regulatory Affairs field the team members are more likely to be female but the top leadership team are usually not and for many years I was perplexed to see conference after conference with only male speakers on topics in a field dominated by women. We need to continue to stand forward more, we have great insights and opinions to share and I actively and strongly encourage other women in our field to do this. Thankfully I am in the fortunate position to be in a leadership position in a global company with a female founder and CEO, who greatly inspires me and encourages me to strive further.  

My overly sensitive antenna on gender equality and the position I am in does help to directly challenge bias when I come across it. Advocating for women in meetings and creating space for their voices to be heard and sharing strategies through our Women’s mentorship program is something that is a meaningful way to affect change in our own spheres of influence. Together we go further.

For true gender diversity there needs to be space for all voices around the table. Creating this space comes from an inclusive culture within the workplace and maintaining a positive and empowering culture which needs constant attention. The past year with the combined challenges of home working and home schools have clearly exposed many flaws of the gender equality in the home. It has been a hard year for so many working mothers and companies that spent the time to find out the right balance for their women employees will be the winners in the long term.

The pandemic was a great litmus test of a company’s true colours and demonstrating whether they truly put their employees first. I am very pleased to be part of MED-EL who acted quickly and continues to put us first. We spent a great deal of time talking with each other and connecting to understand the individual situation they were in and to strike the right balance for each team member of what support they needed from us and what they can deliver on.

A clear learning from me is that the impossible ask where women are asked to hold down a job, teach children at home, cook, clean, keep everyone sane, keep in touch with relatives and so many other roles still persists! As leaders we need to recognize and “see” the full person and support them as best we can.

On this IWD21 and every day I choose to challenge this herculean task and ask all women to do the same to address gender diversity in our homes and in our families too. 

I am a firm believer that achievements must be celebrated and recognized – this is true for everyone who accomplishes achievements and not solely for women. I believe it is incredibly important to recognize and thank people for their successes. For team achievements, each member should be identified by name and describe what they did so others know what they did to support the goal. By knowing what others do and how they succeed I believe we can also inspire others to strive forward. In non-COVID times we would celebrate together with some prosecco and delicious food with some small speeches and reminisces from the team members but now we do this remotely and online with a pre-order drinks and snacks we can “share” together.

I went to an all girls school and come from a family of 4 sisters and 1 brother. In the backdrop of this all strong female focus I remember at the time (long ago) being taught about the increasing number of women taking on government leadership across the world from Margaret Thatcher in the 70’s, to Benazir Bhutto in the 80’s and to Mary Robinson in the 90’s. It was theorized that women were on the move into leadership roles and equality was coming. I remember thinking that when I was grown we would be in a different more inclusive gender equal world.

Unfortunately now as a mother of two young women I see that I was terribly naïve in this hope and in fact there still remains so much to challenge and do. Women are still not always in the rooms where decisions are being made, girls are being excluded from education due to lack of hygiene products, left to be the caretaker for young and old relatives, becoming child brides and in many countries have no access to maternity health, reproductive health and family planning.

By leaving women behind, we do not progress as a society.

To quote Nelson Mandela:  “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression… Our endeavors must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child”.

Banner advancing the voice of women in medtech
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